Pastor Shane Ham : Legalism

Unhealthy Faith · 44:57 · Recorded July 3, 2016


Luke 18:9-12 (NLT) Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’”

The way of legalism:

You believe that what you’re doing, or not doing, earns God’s approval.

You can’t help but make comparisons to others.

You feel superior in your particular style of relating to God.

The way of faith:

Luke 18:13-14 (NLT) “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

1. Surrender who you truly are to Christ.

Psalm 51:1, 3-5, 16-17 (NLT) Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins… For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just. For I was born a sinner— yes, from the moment my mother conceived me… You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

Galatians 3:10-13 (NLT) But those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under his curse, for the Scriptures say, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law.” So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” This way of faith is very different from the way of law, which says, “It is through obeying the law that a person has life.” But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing.

2. Remember who you truly are in Christ.

Galatians 1:6-7, 3:2-3 (NLT) I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ. You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ… Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?

You have been made right with God.


Galatians 2:16, 3:26-27 (NLT) “Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ… For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on the character of Christ, like putting on new clothes.

You are being made right for God.


Galatians 4:6-7, 5:22-25 (NLT) And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir… But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.

You will forever be right to God.


Galatians 5:5 (NLT) But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us.

3. Offer everything you are for Christ.

It’s an offering of total pleasure.

It’s an offering grounded in grace.

It’s an offering full of gratitude.

  • Comparison seems to be a way of life in America. What do you do to fight against comparing yourself to others? When you find yourself doing this, what do you do to redirect your thoughts? In what area of life do you find this most difficult? Share this within your small group and pray for one another.
  • The last sentence of the Galatians passage under point 2 says, “After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?” Is there an area of your life that you are striving to fix, control, or perfect through your own effort only? What is keeping you from relinquishing that to God? Why do you fall back into a habit of trying to do it yourself rather than asking God for the help you need?
  • Review the insert, “Who I Am In Christ”. As you read through each of these statements, do you agree with them? Do you see yourself that way? Which trouble you? Where do you have doubt? Look up the verses that reference those areas and agree with God about who you are. You are who God says you are – Believe it!
  • Galatians tells us that the Holy Spirit produces good fruit in our lives. Evaluate your day: Did people see the fruits of the Spirit in you? Be truthful and search your heart. When did they see love or patience, gentleness or self-control? In what circumstance would you have liked to do better? Do you now understand that the discomfort you feel about that is caused by you acting inconsistently with who God has made you to be? What steps will you take as you go throughout your day to ensure that the fruits you display are in keeping with your character as a Christian?
  • Tell your children that you love them! Help them understand that when they do what you teach them (be kind & loving, share with others, speak truthfully, etc.) it pleases you to see them living right and making good choices – but, it doesn’t make you love them more. You already love them! Show them how God feels this same way. When their actions follow his teachings he is pleased because they are trying to grow in Christlikeness. Their actions, however, don’t make him love them more.
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